Pubdate: Sun, 1 Feb 2009
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited
Author: Xan Rice, in Nairobi, The Observer


President's Relative Denies Police Charge After Arrest for Possession 
of a Single Marijuana Joint

Tomorrow morning, President Barack Obama will sit down in the White 
House to receive his daily intelligence briefing from security 
officials. Thousands of miles away in Kenya, his half-brother will be 
facing a rather different audience in a Nairobi courtroom.

George Obama, 26, was arrested yesterday for possession of marijuana, 
after allegedly being caught with a single joint of "bhang" near his 
home in a Nairobi slum. There was no suggestion that Obama was trying 
to deal in the drug but, according to Joshua Omokulongolo, the area 
police chief, rules are rules. "He is not a drug peddler," said 
Omokulongolo, "But it's illegal, it's a banned substance."

According to CNN, George Obama disputed the charge. "They [the 
police] took me from my home," he said. "I don't know why they are 
charging me."

The episode is the latest sad chapter in the life of George Obama, 
who has largely lived in poverty while his increasingly famous 
half-brother made his way from Harvard to the Senate and then the 
White House. While he shares the same father as the US president, he 
barely knows him and did not attend the inauguration with other 
Kenyan relatives in Washington last month.

The last of Barack Obama Sr's eight children, George Obama was born 
less than a year before his father died in a car accident. Four of 
his half-siblings were born to a Kenyan wife, Kezia, and three - 
including Barack - to two American women. George's mother Jael is 
also Kenyan, but he missed out on the opportunities afforded to his 
half-brothers and sister, most of whom have studied and lived overseas.

In Barack Obama's book, Dreams from my Father, where he recounts his 
family history, he talks of briefly meeting George at his school in 
Nairobi in the late Eighties. It was a "painful affair", cut short by 
a principal who realised that the visitor from America did not have 
permission from Jael to visit the "handsome round-headed boy with a wary gaze".

By the time Barack visited Kenya in 2006 as a senator, George was 
living in Huruma, a tough Nairobi slum, and training to become a mechanic.

Last year, during the election campaign, the Italian edition of 
Vanity Fair claimed to have "found" George Obama, after meeting him 
at his step-grandmother's home in Kogelo, western Kenya. The report 
claimed - controversially - that he lived on a dollar a month, and 
that he was ashamed to be an Obama.

While he is poor and lives in ramshackle accommodation, George is in 
the same position as well over a million other people who live in 
Nairobi's slums. Before the US presidential election, he said that he 
saw no reason why Barack Obama should support him financially; he was 
content with his life and could provide for himself. That did not 
stop Jerome Corsi, the right-wing US author of The Obama Nation, from 
travelling to Kenya in the hope of presenting a $1,000 cheque to 
George. Fortunately for Corsi, whose stunt was unlikely to have gone 
down well in Huruma, he was quickly deported.

On 4 November, George was in Kogelo with the extended family to watch 
his half-brother's triumph. Shortly before the result was announced, 
he was beaming with pride. "I think my brother is going to be the 
next president," he said.

Although Kenya is strict about drug possession, there does not appear 
to be any current police campaign to crack down on usage. The 
officers who arrested George did not disclose why they searched him, 
although they are often conducted in the hope of extracting a bribe. 
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